Your reading this blog is very important to us. All of our bloggers are currently busy writing hilarious, poignant posts. A blogger'll be with you... I had to try this again, just to get photographic evidence. First, the steak part. I used Kobe flatiron steaks, because they are the best deal going, steakwise. Considering that Kobe beef can hit upwards of -- no typo -- US$180/lb., this steak at a piddly US$5.99/lb. is practically theft. These steaks come from what is most commonly called the "top blade roast." As you can see, it has one serious line of connective tissue down the center. Until fairly recently, this roast was sliced into steaks (the top blade steak) which preserved intact the connective tissue. Which made it really cheap, because even the 2nd tenderest steak with incredibly beefy favor (look at that marbling, and groove mightily therewith) will suffer in price when you have that inedible hunka gristle dividing it. The trick is, simply to cut (or have the butcher cut) the icky bits out. In butcher parlance, you want the top blade roast (in case it's called something else where you are, use the picture...it comes from the chuck/shoulder area), and you want it "seamed out" and then you want the two main hunks cut across equatorially. Like so... This should give you three decent steaks of about 10oz each (we cut one of those into halves for the kids) with some fiddly bits left over. Which you then grill ("barbecue") or sear in a hot skillet until done to your liking. (I like to season them very simply and give them a hard 3 minute sear per side, and then let it rest over a low heat. This results in medium-rare. TFBIM likes medium better, but we're working on her.) This is how they look coming off the grill. Now the frites. Start with the humble potato. In this case I was trying out a russet (any other "starchy" potato should prove equivalent) to compare it with the waxy ones of last week. Cut them into the appropriate frites shape. Approximately 16 per potato.Put them in your steamer basket. Steam them until JUST PLIABLE. If you go beyond this two things (both bad) will happen: The starches in the potato's cut surface will gelatinize and will inhibit crispness and the potato flesh will overcook and break apart. You want the potatoes, duly steamed to offer SLIGHT resistance to a knife tip, but not so yielding the knife exits the other side with ease. This means 3-5 minutes (depending on the frites' dimensions) over a rolling boil. Preheat your oven to 350F. Put in a roasting pan drizzled with oil (for this, I prefer peanut oil, you do whatever). Toss in the steamed frites and drizzle more oil (You'll use less than a 1/4 cup for two whole potatoes) and then toss. Plunk back in the oven at 350F. In three minutes... Set the oven to "broil." Blast the frites for 2-3 minutes (you should hear the sizzling, otherwise it's OK to peek once or twice). Throw on paper towels (if you can find the brown paper towels you're in beautiful shape) and season generously with coarse sea salt. Now, for a quickie tomato-shallot/spring onion pan sauce. Take a pat of butter. Melt it. Chop a spring onion or shallot or even an sweet onion as fine as you can stand. This is halfway fine for me. (No pix of the later stages as I was weepy.) Sautee the onion in the butter. When it's translucent, add a good tablespoon of tomato paste or, in this case, a couple of tablespoons of some leftover marinara sauce and a quarter cup of beef stock and any of the collected steak juices. (The latter is key.) At the very end add another pat of butter and OFF THE HEAT stir it in to dissolve it. If you let it melt first and then dissolve it, your sauce will be all separated and greasy looking and disgusting. This, for you lurid types, is called "mounting." Serve. This is the pile o' steak with some steamed asparagus. This is NOS's plate (he put the sauce on the asparagus for some reason) This is TFBIM's steak --perfectly medium, trust me, even though the photo is bad-- and this is the excellent wine:2001 Sterling Merlot, Napa Valley...the tannins have pretty much yielded to the fruit, and it complements the rich-ish steak beautifully. There ya go! -J.
While I compose a sort of WDW post-mortem, I bring you the book meme which I swiped from the lovely and gracious Badger.
Hardback or trade paperback or mass market paperback?
Given the weirdness of my reading material, whatever I can get. Ceteris paribus, I prefer hardback.
Amazon or brick and mortar?
Neither, fools! I go to addall.com (big TY to BabBab) and get it from whosoever gives me the best deal.While the whole indie bookstore trip seems appealing, unless they have something otherwise not gettable (as is invariably the case with used bookstores, a national treasure just behind libraries) I really don't see the point. Nobody gets hopped up about independent gasoline stations.
Barnes & Noble or Borders?
BN, because I can order online, get free shipping AND NOT PAY SALES TAX. If you know me, any time I can get away with not giving the gummint any of my money, I am happy. They are also a lot closer and carry the weird Brit magazines I like. Besides, Border's often has this sort of Stevie Nicks, ærie-færie/hippy-trippy thing going on that disorients me. (No, I really don't need a Chakra Herbal Reading Crystal Hat, thanks.)
Bookmark or dogear?
Dogear? People DOGEAR? That's like saying an adulterous wifebeater really loves the Missus. One does not dogear books any more than one dogears a child to find him (or her) where you left him (or her).
Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random?
By group, and by author within group.
Keep, throw away, or sell?
I sometimes give away if the cause is noble or if I miraculously have a spare. But that's it. We had to rent a storage space (+/- 800 cu. ft.) just to hold books. And some magazines.
Keep dust jacket or toss it?
Read with dust jacket or remove it?
Like Badge said, it serves as an emergency bookmark.
Short story or novel?
Collection (short stories by same author) or anthology (short stories by different authors)?
Collection. Anthologies are too scattershot. An anthology is like having a woman-not-your-wife come in and rearrange the closet the way they do it at her house.
Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
HP. There is a faux-cynical thing going on with LS, and the fact they stuck Jim Carrey in the film--thereby killing the film series, but nobody asked me at casting time--which means my brain simply doesn't click therewith.
Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
What is this "tired" of which you speak?
“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?
Once upon a time it was a dark and stormy night. Duh.
Buy or Borrow?
Buy. Preferably as cheaply as possible, but I like ownership.
New or used?
Whatever is cheapest assuming mint shape. Or used if that's the only thing going.
Buying choice: book reviews, recommendation or browse?
Browse. Someone has to have an exceptionally similar taste to mine to be allowed entry into my suggestion box. People who say things like "The character of Mabel moved me deeply." are considered suspect, suggestions-wise.
Tidy ending or cliffhanger?
Tidy. Cliffhangers mean I have been suckered into buying the next book.
Morning reading, afternoon reading or nighttime reading?
Whenever I am kleft the Hell alone.
Stand-alone or series?
Whatever is well-written with characters which do not move me.
The Hitchhiker's series by Douglas Adams, the Uncle Fred series and Bertie/Jeeves series by PG Wodehouse.
Favorite children's book?
Whichever book does not prompt a child of mine to pipe up with "Daddy, what's 'scrotum' anyway?"
Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
Night of the Avenging Blowfish by John Welter which I keep touting but you people keep refusing to read. Yes, it is funny to the extent that people with respiratory problems oughtn't attempt more than a page a day and no, no characters will move you, nor will you be inspired. (Except by a rather disturbing scene with a strawberry, and then only if you're weirder than I am, which is saying a lot.) You will not find characters who have been estranged from their mothers, or women dying of consumption, or lifelong friends coming to a bittersweet end. You will find incandescent dialogue and unorthodox use of luncheon meat.
Favorite books read last year?
Hell and Other Destinations by Piers Paul Read. Spy Magazine: The Funny Years. The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt.
Favorite books of all time?
Uncle Dynamite, Night of the Avenging Blowfish, Code of the Woosters, The White House Mess.
Least favorite book you finished last year?
Given that I am an inveterate browser, I never read a book which I won't enjoy. That said The Nasty Bits by Tony Bourdain was, um, uneven.
What was the last book you finished?
Heat by Bill Buford.
What are you reading right now?
Fork It Over by Alan Richman. (Sort of a flipside to Kitchen Confidential.)
What are you reading next?
Whatever I scored on half.com that I've forgotten and will arrive next. All I know is there will be no characters which will move me. Nor story lines which I'll find inspirational. It is hoped it will prove a wholesome break from food books.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Just back from WDW where we were loitering with Poppy and the Buxoms. We had great (if brief) fun.
I'm dog-tired. More tomorrow.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Exalting the humble.
speak type of the Mason Jar.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
By popular request: Steak & oven frites.
Monday, March 19, 2007
To me, dear Internet, the weekend is a sacred thing.
Sometimes TFBIM has me roped into going to someone's birthday, or maybe there is something else to do for a few hours on Saturday. But, beyond that, I like staying put and, frankly, doing little-to-nothing. I need the time to decompress and sort of get back into my own head for a while and sift my thoughts. Thought-siftage isn't easy when you are deeply involved in office things and/or the children are sprinting around the house screaming and turning everything to desolation and ruin at 135dB.
So, when a Very Big Client calls up that he'll be in town from Argentina on Friday and he needs to go over all the stuff he hasn't gone over with me since he hasn't been by in 2 years, I know my weekend is shot to Hell.
Suffice it to say my weekend was filled with work (grandparents stepped into the breach) and then when that mentally exhausting bit was accomplished I had to sprint home to be able to catch Wicked: The Musical followed by dinnah out. All in a large group of WTM devotees.
About WTM, I can safely say it wasn't terrible. I would have never rushed myself to such an extend in order to go, but it wasn't unpleasant. It seems to have been very thoroughly enjoyed by the women-and-their-daughters in the audience (I guesstimate 65% of the crowd) as well as very snugly t-shirted, athletic young men almost all of whom had -- inexplicably -- this haircut; these masses of humanity were raving freely about the show while I was saying to myself "Meh. Not bad."
Since we had a matinee (invariably I hate matinees, but I had been looking forward to the show and this was all there was to be had) that meant that lunch didn't happen and we'd have an early dinner. TFBIM's SiL decided to make reservations for out theatregoing group somewhere in South Beach.
Now, for those of you not fully up to speed on South Beach (SoBe) it is an impossibly hip place to be. There are restaurants with names like "Touch" and nightclubs named "Opium." I reluctantly agreed, in part to avoid TFBIM's blue wrath and partly because I was cracking from within with hunger*. We ended up at a place Not Of My Choosing. It was agreed upon because "it has a little bit of everything" which means, honestly, it does nothing well. You simply can't have a restaurant serve Italian, Cuban, Spanish, "Pan-Asian" and Steakhouse Favorites and expect them all to be done properly.
So THAT is how my Saturday was shot, watching a show that was y'know a'ight and an underwhelming dinner.
Sunday (tired yet?) I had to sprint out to the South Florida Automotive Concours d'Elegance at 9am -- because I am stupid enough to be its organizer -- and get a modest sunburn as well as a significant portion of the park on my person then sprint out to catch the 5:30pm Mass only to get back to get dinner ready.
So here I am, cranky and tired and un-decompressed.
* In my rush of Sat. morning I omitted breakfast.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
fight write. UPDATED
I was gamboling about the blogosphere, more or less minding my own business, when I stopped by Tere's blog and it got me thinking of "Hmm. Exactly why do I do this whole blogging thing." The very lovely and extremely gracious Poppy, charming cynic* that she is, would say it's because I am enraptured by the (so to speak) sound of my own voice.
Well, yeah, OK, there is that.
There are people who blog as an escape valve, to relieve some sort of pressure. "I blog to stay sane" goes the refrain. Others do so to locate, gravitate and coalesce with others who may be like-minded (The teeming masses of excellent knitters and/or rabid readers spring to mind.) or have similar issues/challenges (children with special needs, say) in their lives.
To ascertain why I blog (and rather frequently, too) to say nothing of the reveling in combox chatter** as well as for whom do I write when I do, the best I can do is give Poppy partial credit. But also, blogging keeps me out of trouble. 99% of the trouble in which I have ever found myself has sprung directly from being bored out of my skull and -- surprise --I get bored very easily. Along these lines, I think of myself as an evangelist for geniality and an apostle of civilized behavior. With that as a starting point, as people sort of became fellow-travelers of this blog, I guess I write/wrote with them in mind; to find ways of phrasing things or choosing what to mention so that it would prove pleasant reading therefor, became important.
So, I invariably steer clear of religion and politics and weighty stuff. Technically, it can be said I also stay away from introspective sorts of posts, but that only because I am not sure at what point introspection becomes navel-gazing and it's a whole lot easier to give the entire subject a complete miss. So, if someone comes here to see me ponder my role in the world, to read about me philosophize of what it's like to be the only X in a world of Z they likely will leave quietly after a short while. (For example, all the brigades of readers who came over after shaveblog.com gave me a plug are pretty much gone, dejected to see an near dearth of shave-related information.)
My job here, therefore, is to entertain. Sort of. Maybe you laugh, maybe you scratch your head, maybe you get some useful cookery info. But whatever woe was weighing you down might have felt a little lighter for a few minutes, which is cool.
This reminds me I have been remiss in a foodie way. Not my fault. I was going to do a whole steak-frites post, but my camera's battery went belly-up just as I was about to start in on my paean to the flatiron steak and how to make oven fries*** that are better than the deep-fried kind.
So, um, mea culpa.
* "I'm not a cynic," is what Poppy might say "I just know you too damned well. Idiot."
** The two are not really related. Some people post often but never start/join the combox converstions, others are the opposite.
*** The gist of the recipe -- there will be more detailed instruction, I promise--is to cut the potatoes (russet, but all I had were Yukon Gold, and this was still good) into 1/2" x 1/2" fries -- chips to the rest of the Anglosphere -- and then put them to (wait for it!) steam until they are pliably floppy, about 8 min. I used stacking steamers and I inverted the top and bottom baskets midway through. Put them in one layer over paper towels and pat dry. Gently! Give them a quick, light dusting with cornstarch and then toss into a preheated roasting pan coated with oil (I prefer peanut, but you do whatever) and sprinkle some more oil, just a bare minimum. Toss. Throw back in oven at 375F. Cook for 12 min., then put on the broiler and blast it for 3-5 minutes. Take out, put on paper towels and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Icky or weird? YOU decide!
So I went for my usual workout.
As I am maneuvering between the various machines, and weights and things I catch sight of a gentleman easily 20 years my senior. Only he is unlike most gentlemen 20 years my senior. His hair, while it was receding and greying, had the greying remnants tied back in an insouciant ponytail. He is, by all indications, in very good shape.
He is wearing some sort of stretchy sleeveless shirt and bicycle shorts of what appear to be, from my VERY CURSORY GLANCE, seriously snug. (I did not, you'll be pleased to note, seek to confirm this impression.) Furthermore he seems blessed with having hair (likewise greying) in places where lemurs, etc. don't.
He had an iPod of some description strapped to his arm and he was listening to Three 6 Mafia and Linkin Park and The Offspring and Green Day and something gangsta-ish I couldn't recognize beyond mysogyny/firearms/the luxuriant use of the word "fuck" as a verb, at such levels that I, not being in proximity to the headphones of said iPod, could easily discern he was listening to Three 6 Mafia and Linkin Park and The Offspring and Green Day and something gangsta-ish I couldn't recognize beyond mysogyny/firearms/the luxuriant use of the word "fuck" as a verb.
He also had a jewel encrusted gold watch the size of a doorknob and a large, diamond-like stud earring in his (I believe) left ear. He looked like Harrison Ford's pimp taking a spa day.
He headed to the lockers while I performed the rest of my routine, and when I went in to take a steam* our hero was applying an impressive array of undereye serum, somethingsomething Repair Creme and the like.
If I ever become a geriatric metrosexual, you may all line up, in alphabetical order, and shoot me.
* The trick is to take a steam after working out, before taking a shower and then after all that, shaving for a supreme achievement in closeness; what the cognoscenti refer to as faceturbatorily close.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
It had to happen sometime.
NOS, the angelic one, the kind one finally had his first moment of fury. He was playing with some friends outside, and he came in with tears in his eyes.
We asked what happened. He was playing fine with Friend A and Friend B and their friend Co-Friend C. As best I could piece it together, A&B wanted to show off to C and started making fun of NOS. This went on for quite sometime when NOS just.F'ING.snapped and hauled off and slugged not one, but TWO of them. Mind you, all of the other kids are a good half-foot taller than he is, so the possibility they might have decided to turn NOS into a jelly was not an indistinct, remote contingency.
It took the better part of 20 minutes because NOS was so sad/livid/betrayed that he couldn't talk straight. "First [sniff] B [sniff] said [cough, sniff] that [sniff, sniff] I had to [sob,sniff], etc."
It is an article of faith with me that parenting ought be done in a weed-and-seed approach. You provide appropriate feedback when you want a behavior to continue or develop, and another appropriate feedback when you want to extinguish a behavior. Socking people in the chops -- as opposed to socking them back, a wildly different thing -- even when provoked, is not acceptable. I impressed upon NOS that we simply do not hit people first, no matter what. "Oh, if Whatshisface, say, punches you, then you have my blessings to respond in such a way that Whatshisface will consider it wisest to cease and desist." But that is a matter of self-defense. To get so upset the response is a haymaker or uppercut is not a pattern I'd like to see blossom in through the years.
So NOS was, ahem, escorted to A&B's house and he duly apoologized for resorting to force in the face of teasing. A&B's mom was duly horrified at the teasing and a few moments later A&B* were at our doorstep apologizing for having teased and provoked NOS. All apologies seemed sincere and contrite and little hands shook and play resumed organically with, as of this morning, no incident worthy of comment.
In the moments of calm I drive home the point of the difference between acting in self-defense and being aggressive and how to determine whether something crosses that certain line, and to absent yourself if needed and defend yourself verbally without escalation. Granted, this is pretty difficult even for grownups, so I'm not expecting miracles or flawless behavior. Still, it's important for NOS to know what standards we strive to maintain, and why and what the consequences are for not doing so. After all, if there are rewards for being kind and gentle and caring and generous, then there are also equivalent consequences to being aggressive or impatient or ill-tempered. In this case, he had to march two houses down and apologize, and do without TV for the evening. Both of which he accepted and understood.
How I'm not cross-eyed after this episode I chalk up to the overtime put in by my guardian angel.
* C, the likely Iago of the piece, had been picked up and gone home some time before apologies started flying.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Oh, and another thing.
Today, being The Day After* started out as a lot of damned fun. But then yesterday finished up as being a lot of fun, also.
Y'see, the Joke chillun are not stupid. They know they are being fooled by their parents when they say it's bedtime and yet it's light out, or that it's dinnertime when the sun is visible or, more importanmtly, that it's time to awaken -- remember, they didn't go to sleep until the light faded from the heavens -- when it's dark out.
So, not being stupid, they become impassioned recusants. Which led me to issue threats and howl warnings of impending loss of privileges and in NOS's case, of heading schoolwards in an unbreakfasted** state.
Still, I reserve my bile for whomever was the cretin who came up with this harebrained scheme, as toxic and noxious (albeit in a different way) as the income tax or the speed limit. Why daylight ought be saved has never been satisfactorily explained to me, save by NOS who touts its magical abilities to allow him to play longer outside. Somehow, this roseate view abandoned him this morning as I attempted (with the bare minimum success) to roust him out and get him out the door.
Because I think I should boycott the entire enterprise, yesterday I didn't adjust my watch, I changed watches. A while ago I managed to get two very nice watches, almost identical, on eBay. I say "almost" because one had a white face and the other the black one. So, in the spirit of protest and "petition for the redress of grievances" I wear the black faced watch throughout our ordeal.
In other news, today I celebrate my 200th post to be consigned to the draft pile.
* i.e., postapocalyptic.
** TFBIM would stand in the doorway with a dagger at ther own slender throat rather than allow anyone a breakfast-free egress.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Today is the most loathsome day of the year.
[stream of grumbled profanities]
Friday, March 09, 2007
The internet is contagious.
Yesterday, it seems, was a day devoted to pedriatic adventures. NOS had a follow-up at the pediatric endocrinologist, where the diagnosis of "late bloomer" has been confirmed. Basically, he is growing just fine, albeit at a slow pace. Considering that TFBIM didn't ::cough, cough:: read The Red Badge of Courage until she was about 15 and my puberty was held up by the Customs people, the doctor said it is to be expected and nothing to worry about and then, in an aside told NOS to eat his vegetables or all bets were off.
Because he is a slow grower -- and not a Bonsai Boy -- he is still growing and has grown out of some of his dressed-up clothes. When we first started getting him dressy stuff we were somewhat assuaged by the fact that he was likely to not wear them out before he had grown them out and, therefore, NTS could get excellent use out of same. (To hedge our bets, we went out and got decent stuff and not cheapies, so as to optimize our chances for pediatric sartorial longevity.) Which is true, to a point, with NTS not being a slow grower and mo' athletic* than NOS.
But anyway, NOS has a few events coming up over the next months and these events inescapably call for, at a bare minimum, a new blazer and flannels and possibly a suit. So off we went. We managed to score a nice (and, more importantly, cool) seersucker suit he loved because "It's like making a suit out of pajamas." We also managed to find some lightweight grey wool trousers** but no go on the blazer, size-wise.
We grabbed a couple of ties and we were good to go.
NOS was very impressed with the fact the first time he went to some event all dressed up, the girls took note and wouldn't leave him alone. While at the time, being (literally) cornered and kissed by 7-8 girls didn't strike him as all that much fun, time seems to have moderated his views on the matter, although he has hinted he prefers being allowed to have an input in this sort of thing. Clearly a broadminded lad.
NTS, was in a not-exactly-crabby mood, but once he realized he was going to tag along for errand-making purposes, voiced his displeasure. Only when we stopped to effect the purchase of victuals (where he realized that treats generally follow exhibiting acceptable behavior) did he calm down. Which worked out well, because he had to try the various clothes once we got home.
To a dad, nothing says "my boy is growing up" more than the lad shedding outgrown raiments in favor of new ones. Much like a lobster, I suppose. The older a boy gets, the less awkwardly cut the clothes become (have you seen a blazer cut for a 4 year old?) and the more of a "young man" he looks. You see, using NOS as an example, that he stands differently, looks at his surroundings differently and just has a different bearing than he had just a few months back.
While we were doing the try-on thing, I switched my attentions to NTS who needed help wrestling into a jacket. NOS was looking at us, leaned up against the doorframe, hands in his pockets and legs crossed at the ankle, taking the scene in a benevolently detached way.
NTS, too. Normally he considers dress-up clothes to be KGB torture devices but he was actually keeping still and not trying to rend his garments in a move to escape.
It's a good thing my wife wasn't around to see the try-on, because she would have started bawling and saying things like "my little baby!" causing NOS to roll his eyes and possibly detach his retinae. Which would necessitate a visit to the doctor and, frankly, the Internet has had all it can take of that.
* NTS is 3" shorter and 3 lb. heavier than NOS, even though he is 18 months younger. And they are both VERY lean -- as in "look at my six-pack."
** The current ones, TFBIM decided to hem and, um, she left herself with a nonexistent margin for vertical growth.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
See if this makes sense to you. [UPDATED!]
My wife, for all her manifold virtues, has some serious weirdnesses about her.
Last night, as I am wandering around the house looking for a way to rescue an injured bottle of aftershave, I catch a glimpse of what she's watching on TV. It's a documentary on some sort of awful -- and I mean awful -- birth defects. She's beholding this in rapt attention. Then, when it ends, there's another one on exorcism. Other nights she might be watching something on reconstructive surgery for people involved in lawn-care mishaps or documentaries of people who have been tortured by the KGB for being pedestrians.
This morning, like most mornings, as she is rushing out to work, she asks me "Did you read the paper this morning? Did you read about ____? Isn't it terrible?" My wife doesn't react to stories of national import or global significance. What the Senate approved or the United Nations decided mean nothing to her. Now, you print a story about how some criminals burglarized the dwelling of an octogenarian and my wife is like a moth at a forest fire.
You'll hear sympathetic sound effects from behind her tankard of cappuccino. "Oh, how terrible!" Pause. "Amazing." Longer pause. "Then, the burglars stole her kidneys! Can you imagine!? She's elderly and she probably uses her kidneys, a lot." That sort of thing. Regular misery (y'know, genocide, natural disasters, starvation and/or garden-variety oppression) don't hold much appeal. But stuff like an old lady having her kidneys stolen, and possibly her liver as well -- Nana wasn't sure if she had left her liver behind over at her friend Myrtle's -- and a beatific sort of look comes over my wife. She was positively incandescent when that whole "astronaut with the diapers/attempted abduction & murder" thing came out.
So, I have declared her "Recreationally morbid."
[UPDATE!] Last night we had dinner on the late-ish side, since TFBIM would be getting home "early" (early for it being tax season). During dinner, a sip of wine went down the wrong way which sent TFBIM coughing up a storm. In mid-fit, she YELPS "Ow! HOLY $#!+*" and resumed coughing only to punctuate her coughs with imprecations and oaths. Once this spectacle had concluded she explained "I was coughing so hard, I hurt my ovary."
* With the kids, like, right there.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
I've just been offered -- no details whatsoever, yet...but it seems quite legit -- a supposedly paying gig as a columnist for a wine webzine (Vinapedia.net).
The pay will almost certainly be penury, or less...but! BUT! I'll be getting all kinds of free wine all the damned time.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Balance is the key.
After reading the latest from the lovely and gracious Suse, plus all the ensuing combox discussions it struck me that I ought do my bit to reconcile the Version 1 style of blogging vs. Version 2 style of blogging.
This inestimable public service I hereby christen Version 1.5.
The trick -- and it takes some practice, granted -- is to develop a benevolent and kind solipsism. In my case, all I want to do is be left alone to read in peace, have a pleasant tipple or two, and draw forth much slavish fawning over my wit, wardrobe and cooking. Well, by "much" I mean "not so much that it cuts into my reading time."
This is my psychological point of reference...my center, if you will. Every effort I make is geared towards putting me back there. While there, I am a kind, gentle, loving soul. However, reality is a powerful motivating force and I am often drawn off-center. Sometimes to such an extent that even I have grave difficulties returning.
Sometimes they insist on playing with me and, because I am not a complete lowlife bastid, I acquiesce. The goal becoming to tire out the child(ren) in question. "Let's see who can do the most pushups!" I might say, pitting one against the other. Or they may skate around the block while supervised by a loving parent on bicycle. Pretty soon the cry goes heavenward "Daddy, I'm tired."
So I then decant each child in a shower, with plenty of soapy distractions and I go back to my reading for another good 30 minutes.
Of course, there are times when the children don't want so much paternal attention as they do paternal vexation. Which is understandable. Freud, Adler, Jung, Skinner & Joyce Brothers all wrote extensively of this phenomenon. This is tricky, because the temptation is to shout at them to such an extent your lungs swap places with your diaphragm. AFter all, you've just told the boy to do his homework for the third time and, in lieu of same he has turned his room upside down and scrawled anatomically incorrect caricatures of zoo animals on the bedroom wall. The impulse to rattle the roof with your decibels is too strong for many. The forbidden fruit of parenting beckons and many often eat it at this point.
But shouting has a serious drawback in my view. It requires effort. One must summon up blood pressure, expand the thoracic cavity, and send over much ventilated wrath across the vocal cords. I'm tired of just thinking such a thing. Furthermore, if the blogosphere is to be believed, many are washed over with a pounding surf of guilt afterwards. I can't fathom going though all that trouble just to be miserable. One can get just as miserable by just listening to one's spouse's friends.
What I do, and which I consider far preferable, is to raise my voice (some effort is expended, sure, but there's no avoiding it) and issue a threat. The threat has to be pretty severe, so the child(ren) in question must consider the contingency well nigh unlivable. Then you issue a timeline. Then you walk away and go read for a while, maybe having a cocktail if it's the appropriate time for such a thing.
Upon return you will see either of two scenarios: The matter has been rectified to your satisfaction or (if we're talking about my kids) it hasn't. So you carry out the threat, reminding the young and probably lachrymose malefactor:
1- This hurts you more than it hurts him (because you'd rather be reading than removing the DVD player or incarcerating his TurboManTM Action Figure),
2- This is for his own good (because if he continues vexing you just might sell him for medical experiments this time or, at a bare minimum issue a spanking appropriate to the offense), and
3- He was warned. This last one bears repeating frequently, in your best James Mason voice. (Or, if you're of a female disposition, Julie Andrews voice)
This intersects beautifully in the matter of housekeeping.
If your day's goal is to spend it on the sofa, reading, or shopping. There will be relatively little to accomplish, housekeeping-wise. (Mind you, if you have pets, all bets are off.) A bit of music as you stuff washing machines, dryers, or perambulate with a sweeper etc. makes the task at hand comparatively pleasant. The only dangers to household neatness are those whom you have offsprung. But if you keep in mind that anything they get dirty they must clean up, the stress evaporates.
Which leaves cooking. Since I happen to love cooking and the kids love helping this is no chore at all. Cleaning is easy, because the dishwasher does this. The tricky bit -- and follow closely here -- is removing previously cleaned plates and storing them properly. Convincing the tykes this is a sporting matter with some incentive (toys or currency or extra bits of dessert) for showing enthusiasm and efficiency. Well, efficiency, at any rate.
I will be signing books in the lobby afterwards.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
In cyberspace, no one can hear you meme.
The very lovely and quite gracious Poppy has posted an interesting meme ovah theah on her blog. The rules are quite simple. Go over to popculturemadness.com, click on the decade you turned 18, find the actual year you turned 18, and copy the top songs for that year...pasting them. Then you Bold the ones you liked;
strikeout the ones you hated; and italicize the ones about which you were neutral. The ones you've never heard will stay unformatted. I assume this means at the time...not that my tastes have evolved much in the intervening decades.
1. Mickey - Toni Basil
2. Apache - Sugarhill Gang
3. Through The Years - Kenny Rogers
4. I Love Rock and Roll - Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
5. Open Arms - Journey
6. 867-5309 (Jenny Jenny) - Tommy Tutone
7. Eye Of The Tiger - Survivor
8. You Dropped A Bomb On Me - Gap Band
9. Hard To Say I'm Sorry - Chicago
10. I'm So Excited - Pointer Sisters
11. Ribbon In The Sky - Stevie Wonder
12. On The Wings Of Love - Jeffrey Osborne
13. State of Independence - Donna Summer
14. We Got The Beat - GoGos
15. She's Got a Way - Billy Joel
16. Rock This Town - Stray Cats
17. Up Where We Belong - Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes
18. Tainted Love - Softcell
19. One Hundred Ways - Quincy Jones and James Ingram
20. Who Can It Be Now - Men at Work
21. Get Down On it - Kool & the Gang
22. Turn Your Love Around - George Benson
23. Let It Whip - Dazz Band
24. Planet Rock - Afrika Bambaataa
25. Gloria - Laura Branigan
26. Everybody Wants You - Billy Squire
27. Always On My Mind - Willie Nelson
28. Don't You Want Me - Human League
29. I Want Candy - Bow Wow Wow
30. Waiting On A Friend - Rolling Stones
31. Genius Of Love - Tom Tom Club
32. Goobye To You - Scandal
33. Situation - Yaz
34. Circles - Atlantic Starr
35. Memory - Barbra Streisand
36. Abacab - Genesis
37. Cool (Part 1) - The Time
38. Juke Box Hero - Foreigner
39. Hot In The City - Billy Idol
40. Shadows Of The Night - Pat Benatar
41. Murphy's Law - Cheri
42. You've Got Another Thing Comin' - Judas Priest
43. Jack and Diane - John Cougar (Mellencamp) 44. Leader Of The Band - Dan Fogelberg
45. Workin' For A Livin' - Huey Lewis and the News
46. Working For The Weekend - Loverboy
47. Truly - Lionel Richie
48. Mama Used To Say - Junior
49. Paperlate - Genesis
50. I Wouldn't Have Missed It For The World - Ronnie Milsap
51. Under Pressure - Queen and David Bowie
52. I Know What Boys Like - The Waitresses
53. Going To A Go-Go - Rolling Stones
54. Hurt So Good - John Cougar (Melloncamp)
55. Maneater - Hall and Oates
56. Kids In America - Kim Wilde
57. Love Plus One - Haircut One Hundred
58. Should I Stay Or Should I Go - The Clash
59. I Feel Like A Number - Bob Seger
60. I Ran (So Far Away) - A Flock Of Seagulls
61. Centerfold - J. Geils Band
62. Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) - Elton John
63. I Can't Go For That (No Can Do) - Hall and Oates
64. Vacation - GoGo's
65. Early In The Morning - Gap Band
66. Someday, Someway - Marshall Crenshaw
67. Abracadabra - Steve Miller Band
68. I've Never Been To Me - Charlene
69. Leather and Lace - Stevie Nicks and Don Henley
70. Steppin' Out - Joe Jackson
71. I Will Always Love You - Dolly Parton
72. Let Me Tickle Your Fancy - Jermaine Jackson (& Devo)
73. Shakin' - Eddie Money
74. The Message - Grandmaster Flash
75. Talk Talk - Talk Talk
You will notice, kind reader, that there is much I never heard (19 out of 75!). If it was on a station that played rhythm & blues or disco (i.e. "rhythm & blues" for people with neither) or country, it simply never crossed my radar. I rarely bothered with Top 40 stuff, and what did manage to slip into my eardrum was rejected quite frequently. Come to think of it, it still does. I was lucky to grow up pretty close to one of those College Radio Stations (the ones with music you never heard anywhere else and a whopping 16 watts of power) and that shaped my destiny musically speaking.
Now you know.
Friday, March 02, 2007
A father's job is never done
As is my custom, I conduct a post mortem of the day during dinner.
Between rounds of hectoring NTS to please for the love of all that is holy quit daydreaming and finish his dinner, I was interrogating NOS on the details of how his day had unfolded. 99.9% of the time, it's the same stuff...what books they are reading, what tests they have upcoming, pending visits to assorted musea and I do my paternal best to
feign take a serious interest in all.the.bloody.minutiæ. ("I'd like to thank the Academy...")
But this time was different. Which just goes to show how you may be called upon to impart a life lesson at any time.
In his class, NOS has a group project* wherein they have to come up with a game related to a an almost certainly foul** book titled The Whipping Boy. In an exposition of brainpower in action, NOS's teacher decided to let the kids form their own groups. Yeah.
So, as a consequence, some kids had a bit of a rough time getting into a group. You'd think interviews, references, test scores and family connections were needed. But most got in without too harrowing a time of it. Most. Not all.
One kid was shuffled from group to group until he landed in NOS's. From the standpoint of 9 year olds, I can see why. Child X is considered, frankly, an outright weirdo by his peers. Not eccentric (NOS is pretty much the tolerable limit of eccentricity at his school) but weird, and undesirably so. He spends his free time spouting tabloid-worthy factoids on aliens, ancient civilizations, mummies, paranormal phenomena, etc.
Therefore he gets no traction, socially. Seeing NOS's group as a sort of last refuge he joined. To the consternation of NOS's friend R. It bears noting that R. is no prize his own bad self. R's new task in life is to effect the egress of Child X from the group and during the time he is assiduously endeavoring towards that goal, become as unpleasant as possible.
The problem with Child X is that his parents just wrapped up a very long, nasty, vitriolic divorce. My guesstimate is that all of this was not kept from Child X. Dad X is now dating a younger (allegedly French, FWIW) woman whose only real skills, I surmise, are not likely to be ever given public evidence, unless there is a case of snakebite nearby, with which circumstance she would be admirably suited to cope. Mom X is a specimen herself (marrying a man 25 years your senior with a, um, previous track record of Not Good At The Lifelong Thing is not something that inspires confidence). Any woman who lets her kid go about school with a pageboy haircut when the all other boys are all within one standard deviation of "crew cut" is not a woman who has...what you'd call a choke hold on reality.
Prior to this, I had to tell NOS to stop teasing Child X about that whole French lady thing. Child X was going off on one of his tirades about aliens and mummies and how all the other kids were idiots--IDIOTS!--for not believing until one day it'll be too late...and NOS said something smartassed*** about X's dad and the French lady. So I had to correct, NOS rather sharply on the matter, and afterwards explain to him why I had to issue such a sharp correction.
I 'splained that Mr. & Mrs. X had decided that it was time they tormented other people and having jettisoned each other (in Dad X's case, again) in a very mean, contentious way...it probably messed up X rather badly. "He probably feels very unwanted and unnoticed and that's why he is saying outlandish things. He's probably a good kid, who got very hurt and this is the only way he has figured out to deal with things. You're very lucky Mom and I love each other and all that. If--God forbid--we ever got a divorce, you'd probably get kinda weird yourself. Why, if R's parents ever got divorced--God forbid some more--you know that R would totally go triple-turbo weird, right?"
To which NOS nodded assent.
I further explained that since he had been elected group captain, he had to show some leadership. He was to take R. aside and explain the above and tell him to stop acting like a sniveling imbecile**** and cut Child X some slack.
Me: Tell R. that, on top of it all, it's Lent, and he should try to be charitable.
NOS: He said he doesn't care about Lent.
Me: Tell him he will burn in everlasting Hellfire.
Me: Wait. Don't tell him that.***** Tell him that if Sister Principal finds out, she will not be pleased with him. At all.
NOS: OK. Can I tell him he is a jerk?
Me: Hmm. That's tough. (pause) Tell him that you don't want him acting like a jerk. So if he tells on you, then you can honestly say you didn't call him a jerk.
NOS: OK. Oh, and D. bopped me in the face with his lunchbox****** so I kicked him.
NOS: At the bottom of the stairwell.
Me: No. Um, what part of D. did you kick?
NOS: Shin. My backpack is pretty heavy. I didn't want to fall.
Me: Very sensible.
NOS: What do I do if D. starts trouble? [D. is also in the project group]
Me: Just say to him "What are you going to do, hit me with your purse again?"
NOS: [Loud burst of laughter] Yeah!
Me: But back to Child X. I want you to be nice to him...
NOS: But he's a weirdo!!
Me: I'm [vexed pause] not asking you to become his blood brother or to donate a kidney. I just want you to be c-h-a-r-i-t-a-b-l-e to him. Don't pick on him, don't tease him, and don't put up with anyone who does the same. Look, a real man is someone who stands between someone who is hurt or weak or helpless and something terrible or mean. Do you get that?
Me: I'm not asking you to be his best friend for life. I'm not asking you to be his bodyguard. All I'm asking you to treat him fairly and not let people tease or bully him. That's all. Do you understand that?
And then I had to go back to holler at NTS who was blowing bubbles with this milk.
* I am, and have been for quite some time (possibly decades) of the opinion group projects are an abysmal waste of time.
** If the subject is called "Language Arts" instead of "English" the books are far more likely to be abysmal.
*** Gee, where'd he get that?
**** I think I actually said "goofball"
***** I was tempted to say "Let the little @#$%er be surprised."
****** Now I know why they stopped making the metal lunchboxes.
I had to try this again, just to get photographic evidence. First, the steak part.
I used Kobe flatiron steaks, because they are the best deal going, steakwise. Considering that Kobe beef can hit upwards of -- no typo -- US$180/lb., this steak at a piddly US$5.99/lb. is practically theft.
These steaks come from what is most commonly called the "top blade roast." As you can see, it has one serious line of connective tissue down the center. Until fairly recently, this roast was sliced into steaks (the top blade steak) which preserved intact the connective tissue. Which made it really cheap, because even the 2nd tenderest steak with incredibly beefy favor (look at that marbling, and groove mightily therewith) will suffer in price when you have that inedible hunka gristle dividing it.
The trick is, simply to cut (or have the butcher cut) the icky bits out. In butcher parlance, you want the top blade roast (in case it's called something else where you are, use the picture...it comes from the chuck/shoulder area), and you want it "seamed out" and then you want the two main hunks cut across equatorially. Like so...
This should give you three decent steaks of about 10oz each (we cut one of those into halves for the kids) with some fiddly bits left over. Which you then grill ("barbecue") or sear in a hot skillet until done to your liking. (I like to season them very simply and give them a hard 3 minute sear per side, and then let it rest over a low heat. This results in medium-rare. TFBIM likes medium better, but we're working on her.)
This is how they look coming off the grill.
Now the frites. Start with the humble potato. In this case I was trying out a russet (any other "starchy" potato should prove equivalent) to compare it with the waxy ones of last week.
Cut them into the appropriate frites shape. Approximately 16 per potato.Put them in your steamer basket. Steam them until JUST PLIABLE. If you go beyond this two things (both bad) will happen: The starches in the potato's cut surface will gelatinize and will inhibit crispness and the potato flesh will overcook and break apart. You want the potatoes, duly steamed to offer SLIGHT resistance to a knife tip, but not so yielding the knife exits the other side with ease. This means 3-5 minutes (depending on the frites' dimensions) over a rolling boil.
Preheat your oven to 350F. Put in a roasting pan drizzled with oil (for this, I prefer peanut oil, you do whatever).
Toss in the steamed frites and drizzle more oil (You'll use less than a 1/4 cup for two whole potatoes) and then toss. Plunk back in the oven at 350F. In three minutes...
Set the oven to "broil." Blast the frites for 2-3 minutes (you should hear the sizzling, otherwise it's OK to peek once or twice).
Throw on paper towels (if you can find the brown paper towels you're in beautiful shape) and season generously with coarse sea salt.
Now, for a quickie tomato-shallot/spring onion pan sauce.
Take a pat of butter.
Chop a spring onion or shallot or even an sweet onion as fine as you can stand. This is halfway fine for me. (No pix of the later stages as I was weepy.)
Sautee the onion in the butter. When it's translucent, add a good tablespoon of tomato paste or, in this case, a couple of tablespoons of some leftover marinara sauce and a quarter cup of beef stock and any of the collected steak juices. (The latter is key.) At the very end add another pat of butter and OFF THE HEAT stir it in to dissolve it. If you let it melt first and then dissolve it, your sauce will be all separated and greasy looking and disgusting. This, for you lurid types, is called "mounting."
This is the pile o' steak with some steamed asparagus.
This is NOS's plate (he put the sauce on the asparagus for some reason)
This is TFBIM's steak --perfectly medium, trust me, even though the photo is bad-- and this is the excellent wine:2001 Sterling Merlot, Napa Valley...the tannins have pretty much yielded to the fruit, and it complements the rich-ish steak beautifully.
There ya go!